Monday, March 28, 2011

The Day I Realized I'm Exactly Like Jimmer Fredette

Tragically, BYU lost Thursday.

It's a heartbreaking development for all alumni, but I think it especially strikes home for me because I recently had an experience that felt pretty much exactly like what the team, and especially Jimmer Fredette, the team's star, must've felt like in that moment when it was all over.

See, I was at the park with my daughters a few days ago. I walked them there while Wife was cooking dinner. You know. To give her a break.

Golly gee, it certainly is nice to get this free-time!

We got there and did the normal park thing. The girls slid down slides and swung on swings and got chased by a cujo satan kitty (another story for another day--seriously, I'm writing a post about it). And then, as we were leaving the park after some fun-filled rounds of hide-and-go-seek (which was actually more of a game where one girl took her turn counting to some indeterminate number while the other one and I frantically tried to hide behind monkey bar poles only to be found immediately), something really uncomfortable happened: the girls noticed that there was a basketball left by strangers by the basketball hoop.

"Daddy, let's play with the basketball!" they said. And I started hyperventilating and trying to ward off a minor panic attack.

See, I'm not sure if I have mentioned this enough, but I'm about as good at throwing a ball into a hoop as Chris Brown is at not beating his girlfriends to a bloody pulp or as snow is at being 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or as  Elizabeth Taylor is at not being dead (RIP, ET, no disrespect intended, it's just an analogy, calm down please).

I'm not kidding. It's bad. Sure, I can blame it on having a blind eye and no depth perception, but we're talking about level of suck here that requires further explanation. And that explanation is pure, inborn, bovine-like lack of coordination mixed with virtually no actual experience. Mixed with a blind eye and no depth perception.

I suck bad.

Like, imagine how you would feel if you were a person that just naturally couldn't carry a tune and you had virtually no experience with music, but you suddenly found yourself in a concert hall and somebody handed you a baton and said "go conduct that orchestra in Shostakovitch's 5th symphony or you will be shamed for life." Think of how terrified you would feel as you walked towards the podium knowing you had no idea what to do, and knowing that people were watching. Then, when you get there, you start to panic when you look down and notice you don't have hands. And you aren't wearing pants. And if you don't conduct the song perfectly, you'll be murdered. And, at that precise moment, imagine somebody throws a trumpet at you and hits you in the face. That feeling of the trumpet ricocheting off of your cheek and sending you stumbling backward in awkward embarrassment while everyone laughs at you and calls you a sissy right before they rip your body apart limb from limb? That's like what I feel when holding any kind of ball, mitt or bat. Except for me, I'm a relatively in shape man, so there is an inherent expectation that I can at least do something in order not to be murdered by an angry mob of onlookers.

But I can't. Really. Really, truly.

Sucking at sports is the source of, oh, 73% of my adolescent shame, if you don't throw being chubby, having a lazy eye, having a white man afro, being a poet, and playing the violin into the mix.  (I was probably the most awkward adolescent you could ever imagine. Times infinity.)

I still don't think I've explained myself well enough. But this will have to do.

I hope I have at least approximated the level of terror I felt when both of my sweet daughters innocently cried out "Daddy, let's play basketball!"
It was breathtaking. I had always known this day would come, but I didn't realize it would come so soon...

My first response: RUN!!!!
My second response after a few moments when adult/therapist/father self tried to intervene: "Nobody's around, they just want to play, it will do no harm, who cares if you suck, nobody's watchi..."
My third response, which abruptly short-circuited the second response and left me panting? RUN!!!!!!!! RIGHT NOW!!! OR YOU WILL PROBABLY DIE!!!!!!!!

After hyperventilating for a few long seconds, I decided to get the heck out of dodge.

"Oh, sorry girls," I said trying to muster my best Daddy-knows-best voice which may or may not have been slightly quivering with anxiety. "That ball isn't ours. We can't play with it, or that would be like stealing because we didn't ask for permission. Come to think of it, it's time to go home..." And with that I had paved my escape route. I started corralling them and we began to walk towards home when a nice little neighborhood girl called out to us. "Mister," she said. "It's okay, that basketball is there for anyone to use. Go ahead and play with it!"

Thanks a lot random neighbor girl. Thanks for advocating for my daughters' wishes at the expense of my dignity.

It was at this point that I realized the inevitable. I was going to have to pick up the basketball. And I was going to have to throw it in the general direction of the hoop. And I was going to have to do it without scarring my daughters for life.

The two of them were looking at me expectantly as I picked up the ball. "Throw it in the hoop, Daddy.." Anna said encouragingly.

"Sure, sweetie..." I said through gritted teeth. I looked at her and smiled. And just as I was about to contort myself into the most girly, cringe-worthy shooting-position known to man one last semi-self-preserving thought occurred to me in a flash: GRANNY SHOT

 "Watch, Anna," I said. "This is how I want you to shoot the ball, so you can get it in if you try." I wussily dipped the ball between my knees and then launched it into the air. The three of us were breathless as the ball careened towards the backboard and bounced off it in a trajectory so awkwardly nature-bending that it appeared to break laws of physics. It was as if the hoop had magnetically repelled the ball. Anna looked embarrassed for me as we watched the ball bounce away. I'm pretty sure she, too, was wondering if that had just happened.

"It's okay, Daddy, just get it in the hoop," Anna encouraged again, but with a confused look on her face, like she was on the verge of being ashamed to know me. Viva, the two-year-old, stood behind her in horrified silence. Even the cujo satan kitty couldn't look me in the eye.

And that's when I knew what I had to do.

I had to triumph. I had to go out to the street, retrieve the ball, and somehow wrangle it into that hoop. My honor was on the line. My manhood and fatherhood were in question. Everything I had ever known myself to be as a person was now dependent on my getting an orange ball into a non-NBA height hoop from about five feet away.

I got the ball. I stood in front of the hoop, staring it down, thinking things like "I can do this" and "I OWN you, hoop" and "if only Wife were here to see me now!" I could hear Rocky music playing in the back of my mind, and I felt a verve of excitement as I awkwardly dipped the ball between my legs again to prepare for another granny shot. I knew I had this. This moment was mine. And then, with all the aerodynamic love I could possibly muster, I catapulted the ball into the air like an 80 year old grandma tossing a water balloon.

It is nearly impossible to describe the way that ball looked as it hurled through the sky. Kites in a sharp wind have more line and arc. Paper bags in a tornado have been known to demonstrate more steadiness in flight. It was as if I had thrown a wadded piece of paper haphazardly toward a trash can, and then it passed a rotating fan. Even the ball itself seemed to cry out in shame at what it was being subjected to as it wobbled through the air.

But, but, somehow it got close to the hoop! It hiccuped over to the basket in slow motion, and the girls and I watched with bated breath as it inched forward. To our utter disbelief, it was positioned to go directly into the basket!

We all felt our hearts break a little as, instead of swooshing through the basket, the ball bounced off the space between the backboard and the hoop and came careening back towards me at about one mile an hour.

I tried to be really smooth as I flinched at the ball bouncing back towards me, but there's really no way to dodge a slowly bouncing basketball as if it were covered in flames, AIDS and swine flu and maintain any dignity.

 This little girl has me terrified. It looks like she might gently bounce the ball in my direction.

Thankfully, the ball didn't actually hit me. It just limply rolled away as my daughters looked at me in bemused wonderment and stifled horror.

It was in that moment that I realized what Jimmer must have felt like when BYU lost. So much riding on one performance. So much on the line. Yet, try as he might, he wasn't afforded that one chance to triumph. He was faced with failure. And I, too, was faced with failure. And he and I, and our respective failures, were tied together inexorably by one amazing orange ball, and whether or not it made it into a hoop.

I felt a connection with Jimmer in that moment that was pretty deep. It was so powerful that I wouldn't be surprised if he felt something in that moment too.

You guys, what happened to both of us last week is something that feels really rough. It's something that can't really be put into words. And something that I, for one, will never forget.

As I walked away from that shameful incident in the park, I had my head held high. For the first time, I knew I wasn't alone in my failure. Sure, I had failed at basketball. But Jimmer Fredette, a basketball hero--somebody on the cover of Sports Illustrated, nominated as National Player of the Year--had failed at basketball too. We weren't so different, he and I. Yet, we both just moved on, living our lives, being the best men we could be.

I can't think of anything more empowering than that.

Jimmer Fredette, if you're out there, I feel ya, bro. (Pounds chest) I really do.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Pet!

You know your blog is becoming the center of your universe when you start contemplating life-time commitments for a photo op.

I seriously thought about getting a dog the other day so that I could post pictures of it on my blog. Not to care for it. Not to love it. Not to let it piss on my carpet. Not so my children could play with it. But so I'd have fun animal posts because birds are boring.

I don't even like taking pictures of dogs.

Meet Bruno! I just brought him home! To my blog. From the great pound called "The Internet."

Currently my pets consist of birds. Have you ever seen my birds?

Here's one of them:

This is Felix. He's the only other guy in my house. We often feel very alone in a world of frilly pink dresses, make-up and Polly Pockets. And as far as blog-pets go, he's pretty boring. He doesn't even talk.

The point here is this: if you see me at a pet store having purchased a Great Dane, and you ask me "hey, why are you buying a Great Dane?" and I answer with "Because I have this really great idea for a blog post! I'm gonna ride him!" and I look all weird and crazy-eyed, that is the time you gently take me by the arm, walk me down to the metro station and love-tap me onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train.

But be nice to the Great Dane. It wasn't his fault that he was bought to be my horse/blog-decoration.

Photo attribution here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wedding Planning

My sister-in-law Kaitlyn is getting married in May and she's really lucky because I'm so good at wedding planning.

Like with themes. I think I'm pretty talented at choosing a theme that will tie an event together, and leave the guests thinking "whoa, that was unforgettable."

For instance, for Kaitlyn's wedding, I had an "Aha!" moment about a really striking theme: St. Patrick's Day. I'm not sure what made me think of it... it just kinda "came to me" out of nowhere. When I told Kaitlyn I thought she should do a St Patrick's day theme for the wedding everyone was in an uproar, and I think it's because people were so excited by this idea. But Kaitlyn--who PS is of Irish descent and whose name is Kaitlyn Shea (formerly O'Shea) which is about the most Irish name you could ever imagine, and who has freckles and very fair skin--was like "I don't think a St. Patrick theme is going to work. My wedding's in May."


I said, "you're being too particular" but then she viciously Z-snapped me and said, "It's my wedding."

Fine. Do what you want, Kaitlyn. But if you don't do it, you probably can't work Lucky Charms into the event anywhere. Just sayin'.

She did concede that it was a good idea to have me help with choosing the cake.

I take this kind of thing very seriously.

I have an especially well-trained palate, most especially when it comes to anything lard-based. Or anything made primarily with sugar and fat.

I worked hard. It got a little intense.

Things started out relatively chill.

But then shiz got REAL.

And then I got ridiculous, and started using the frosting kind of like war-paint.

It was at about this point that a Hazmat team consisting of Wife and Kaitlyn came in and cleaned me up. There was a lot of yelling about "we all were supposed to try the cakes!" and "the bride should have final say in her own wedding cake, not the brother-in-law!" but the details are hazy because it was so traumatic.

Final verdict? I liked the cake with frosting.

Finally, I also offered to create a wedding invitation for Kaitlyn and Blake. There are a couple of samples I worked up, but she decided to go with a professional. She said that she really liked them though, and I have the feeling that she's planning something special with them. Like maybe some kind of mural as you walk into the reception. I don't know, I don't wanna jinx anything. (crosses fingers)

Here they are:

I couldn't get the picture in because I forgot to start with it. But you can paste it in with actual paste, and it's no problem.

Sometimes when I finish editing a picture, I actually give myself chills.
Shhhh! Don't tell Kaitlyn, but for an early wedding present, I've already started sending these off to people on her address list! How surprised will she be when she's like "It's time to send out my wedding invitations..." and I'm like "Actually, NO IT ISN'T! I already sent them for you! SURPRISE!!!!"

I think I feel a St. Patrick's day hug coming on...

Peace, St. Patty's style.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Food. And Gangs. But Mostly Food.

Wife and I grew up on the same street in Kearns, Utah.

 This is the house I grew up in. I just found it on the internet, because technology is amazing.

When our parents moved there, it was a neighborhood on the Utah Wasatch Front West Side (throws up a sign) where they built a bunch of starter homes that new families could buy on the cheap. By the the time ten years had passed, things had gone very, very downhill. Most of the young new families had moved on to greener, East-side pastures, leaving those of us who stayed to fend for ourselves. Let's just say that the peaceful haven that was the neighborhood when I went to elementary school had shifted a great deal.  When I got to high school, our neighborhood was so riddled with gangs, or at least the rumor of gangs, that when I went to other schools for orchestra stuff and for other really cool reasons like that, I was often asked "so, do you guys have metal detectors at the entrance of your school?"

Yeah. Kearns is the fricking HOOD. As you can see I'm a nerdy, orchestral gang-banger. What, you thought there was a violin in this violin case? Ha, think again, sucker. I'm about to bust a cap. (Pulls out a semi-automatic weapon)

(It's likely that I should never try to speak gang-banger again. That probably won't stop me, though.)

Some examples of how crazy it got. 1. There was a lot of tagging with graffiti. Often, it happened on the fence of our front yard. 2. My next door neighbor was in his house minding his own business when he heard a weird pop, and something came through the drywall. It was a bullet. 3. The year after I moved, I was sitting in newspaper class with somebody who was researching gangs outside of California, and the article from the Oregonian we were looking at featured my high school, Kearns High.

Anyway, surprisingly, this post isn't about gangs or how gangsta I am at heart because of my West Side upbringing. It's about Wife and me, and our crazy food throwbacks from the days when sugared cereal was something that only happened on birthdays or Christmas, and chips didn't come in individualized bags but had to be rationed out like soup at a soup kitchen, and candy bars were something we went to bed dreaming about in that distant "what if I were a king and lived in a castle, maybe I can become a rock star when I grow up, and maybe I'll get a candy bar some day" kind of way.

"Mommy, Mommy, it's Santa's Workshop!!!"

Examples of weird post-Kearns poor-kid behavior:

1. The other night, Wife and I were at a church activity. For part of this activity, kids got to hit a piñata. (Whoa, go ME for remembering the code for the ñ.) The girls loved swinging at that thing. Eventually it burst, and littered its gut of candy everywhere, and there was an immediate frenzy where all the kids got in there to gather loot, just like it woulda been back in Kearns, but then, something unsettling happened. After all the good stuff was taken--the mini candy bars, and the suckers, and whatever else--all the kids just... left. And there on the floor was a pile of candy. Perfectly good candy. Like Smarties, and Tootsie rolls, and candy necklaces, and crystal meth. (That last one was a gratuitous lie to see if you were paying attention. Remember, this wasn't Kearns.)

Anyway, Wife and I both looked at each other with a baffled expression, like "did that group of kids not NOTICE that there's still a pile of candy right there? Why haven't their greedy, poor-kid hands scooped it up in a frenzy reminiscent of fighting hyenas after a wildebeest kill?" Then we remembered: we're not in Kearns. Up here, kids don't give a crap about smarties. Kids feel insulted by smarties. Smarties are a sad, sad attempt at being sweet and delicious, and the kids here (including my own, tragically) walk away from a whole pile of them because they're that bland. Anyway, that's about the time Wife and I felt strangely compelled to swoop in like vultures and scoop it all up ourselves and start stuffing it all into our mouths so frantically we'd be taking actual bites out of the skin of our hands so we could make sure to get it in us before it disappeared, growling menacingly at anybody that got near us. It took all the strength we had to just walk away... (just walk away...walk away...*hyperventilates and growls like a rabid dog*)
Aw, look at all those tributes about to fight to the death in The Hunger Games kids waiting for their candy!

2. On Halloween, when our kids are exhausted and begging to go home, Wife and I are both like "WE WILL KEEP GOING UNTIL THERE IS NO FREE CANDY LEFT ON EARTH."

3. At buffets, Wife and I have some weird impulses. First: Eat everything now or it will disappear and never come back again. Second: Is that free self-serve ice-cream!??? (Makes four bowls and devours them in succession without blinking or tasting and swallowing only four times). Third: Oh, I'll just save this turkey leg/scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy/tray of stuffing for later (shoves it into Wife's purse).

 When this food disappears, there will be no more food. Ever. (pours chicken broth into pocket)

4. We have a treat pantry. It is... unbelievable. It rivals Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Half of the friends we have are our friends only because they know when they come over they can raid it. But what you don't understand is we have to have that stuff on hand, because what happens if you have a craving for a white chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter cup washed down with some Haagen Dazs dulce de leche ice cream and you don't have any on hand????

The world literally ends in a flaming apocalypse. That's what happens. You just don't know it because Wife and I are smart and keep our cupboard overflowing to prevent your fiery death.

This orb hangs in the balance. The only thing keeping it safe from annihilation is a Heath Bar and some Cadbury chocolate eggs. Located in my pantry.

You're welcome, planet Earth

(Wait, what? It's not surprising to you that Wife and I both went through a fat phase? Fancy that...)

Photo attribution here and here

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hide and Seek

So, Viva, our two-year-old, has a hilarious and also terrifying habit.

She has decided that there is very little in this world more entertaining than hiding from us.

The thing I don't get though is how sometimes she's so amazing at it, and other times her hiding spot consists of hiding her face under a bean bag in the middle of the living room with the entire rest of her body exposed.

 I'm closing my eyes. They'll NEVER find me or my mess now.

This disparity is problematic. Clearly, she doesn't understand the difference between hiding her head like an ostrich, and then the next time wedging herself into a small crevice behind the washer for thirty minutes while we get more and more worried calling her name over and over and hoping she hasn't died.

Whenever we find her on the days she chooses a Houdini like hiding spot, we're totally frazzled and having visions of kidnappings and wells and car trunks and freezers, and she usually just looks up at us smiling a smile that says "why on earth did it take you guys so long to find me this time??? You found me immediately yesterday when I closed my eyes in the kitchen to hide from you."

Mark my words, there will be a day we call the police over to try to find her.

And then we will locate her in the middle of her bedroom floor almost fully exposed. And wife will look at me and say "I thought you looked in here!" and I will look down sheepishly and say "I... forgot" and she will say "What do you mean you FORGOT? It's what we've been doing for the last 30 minutes, and the only reason you came upstairs, and because you didn't do it, we just called the police" and I'll be like "Listen, on my way up the stairs it became imperative that I get online and check my old grad-school email account to make sure nobody had been trying to contact today. Can I help that something as important as that distracted me from looking into the bedroom for our child who went missing?"

And then Wife will punch me in the face. Except no she won't. But I might punch myself in the face for her.

I'm charitable like that.

And now, the Weed Wednesday Wrap Up:

It's been a while since I've wrapped up. Let's get rolling.

1. Remember this post where I gave a bunch of random tidbits of information about myself wondering if you could guess the lie? Well, I forgot (SHOCKER) to update with the answer, so I'll do that now. But first let me explain what the crap that was. It was an entry for a writing contest thingie where we all do a post with specific requirements and then people judge them and the last time I did it I won so I was excited to do it again but do you know what happened? I posted it one minute late. And then it wasn't accepted.


So now I have a really random post about weird stuff using odd obscure words. But that's pretty much what this blog is anyway as it turns out so it's all a wash.

If you're curious, the fact that was a lie was #2. I'm horrible at directions. I'm even worse at landmarks.

Also, I really do play the violin and even had a music scholarship in college. I know it might sound surprising coming from a man who just published perhaps the most graphic expose on pooping one's pants ever written. But it's true. What can I say? I'm multifaceted: music scholarships and incontinence. Wife totally got the full package.

2. What else was there???

Nothing really.

3. I'll link to something funny. (I first saw this posted by my new favorite blogger Steam Me Up Kid. She's the very definition of humor. No joke.)

Oh, and here's one more thing.

Here, I'll embed that second one which given that it's had millions of views, you've likely already seen, but whatever.

WARNING: it contains a swear.

Good night. And happy Wednesday.